So I thought that it might be fun for you all to read about our passage of 565 nm to Jamaica on Rocinante. There is much to document though so I have broken it up into 3 parts. Enjoy
Along with our friends on Kokomo, we have been planning to make this trip to the USA via Jamaica and the Bahamas for many months. Spending the past few months in the San Blas islands, hanging out, sailing to anchorages as we desired, enjoying the sun, water and the very chill lifestyle has been quite an experience for many of us very ‘connected’ Americans, but we managed. It takes a while to let go of the desire to have all the ‘conveniences’ at your fingertips, stores only blocks away, nightlife, freeways to take you wherever you may want to go. There is none of that here and we have been enjoying the simple beauty for many months.
Jeanna and Steve Taylor joined us to spend some time in the islands and then to make the 500+ mile trip to Jamaica, knowing that there could be mother nature events that might prevent them from actually getting to Jamaica and their pre-arranged return flight plan, but they were willing to take the chance and we were more than willing to have them spend some time with us, hoping that they would be able to cross the Caribbean with us. Getting them here did take some fast talking, as I recall there were no bribes involved, but close. An offshore adventure is not something that just anyone would do, go ahead ask yourself: 5 days minimum on a boat in the middle of the ocean, no change of mind once the journey has begun, it may be uncomfortable, it might even get a little scary, very little sleep…
Larry and I made the journey into Panama City, it is quite the adventure and interesting for the first time or two, I was ready never to make this slog again. 1 hour on a panga(boat) to get from Rocinante to shore, 4 Wheel drive 2 ½ hours over a mountainous washed out road to the B and B. Then repeat above with 10 additional bags of provisioning. Anyway here we are in Panama city and our friends flight was delayed so they wouldn’t be getting in midday as expected. We would have to provision the next day right before going back to the boat. It was wonderful to greet them when they did arrive, just another validation that we were actually going to do this adventure!
So we are back at the boat waiting for our weather window while enjoying the islands, yes we were able to bar hop but that’s another story. What is a weather window? Well, that is a period of time, the amount of time that it will take you to get to your destination, and the weather that is forecast for that amount of time. On long passages such as this the weather can and will change depending on your location so the weather forecasting takes into account how many miles your boat will travel and what the weather will be at that point on the first day, then the second and so on. We opted this time to take advantage of a weather forecaster who is well known for pretty accurate forecasting and who also does individual forecasting, for a fee, his name is Chris Parker.
The first few days our friends were here the weather did not look too promising for making their crossing, there were forecasted very high winds and waves, something we would not head into. Our conversation had to include what is your drop dead date? When will you say-‘nope can’t take the chance of returning after this date’. Of course we had to ask it, I was hoping that the answer would be, ‘we are with you no matter what, but of course they had their obligations and couldn’t risk not meeting them. I understood and then went on to hope for the best.
The high winds/waves that had been predicted was a week out and we all know that especially weather changes, sometimes for the better in this case less wind and sometimes for the worse, meaning more wind, that is what I was listening for as the days progressed. Sure enough as I listened to the forecast everyday it seemed that the high wind and waves predicted didn’t get as high as expected nor last as long, this was the question that I continued to pose to our many friends, most with more sailing experience than I. ‘Are you hearing the same thing?’ I would ask. The answer was yes so my hopes began to rise that we would be able to leave during the window that would get our friends, and us to Kingston, Jamaica safely and in time to catch their flight.
Anticipation was building as we neared the possible date, funny how this works. It’s not like taking a regular vacation, you ask your boss for definite dates off, book your flight or hotel or plan some outing, pack your bags or meet up with friends or family on the appointed day and there you have it some good ole R and R. No how this works is that you think that, well today is the 30th of March and there may be a chance we can leave this week, hmmm in this case travel plans were in the mix but we never let that push us when it isn’t safe, we have learned that lesson.
Then that night we discuss the possibilities a little more, bounce around ideas and what we expect for the first 24 hours and decide that we could leave on the 3rd. The next day, 1st of April, and after getting the weather and again discussing the possibilities it looks like maybe we can leave the evening of the 2nd, and then that moves up to the morning of the 2nd, mostly due to not hearing that there would be any difference leaving 24 hours later, we would still have a tough time the first 24 hours out and then things would calm.
So the 2nd arrives, we have all slept a little restlessly turning over in our heads all the preparation needed for a safe crossing. We are all up early getting our cup of java or tea to listen to the weather and get another individual report for the area we will be in, getting just this last minute information before making the final call that indeed we will depart today. Another check with Kokomo and yes we are all on the same page, It will be 15-25k NE winds, 7-9 ft NE swell as we start out and 24hours later will calm to 15-20k ENE and 5-7 NE swell. Calming the rest of the way both seas and swell to make the first part the roughest and the last the easiest, in theory. Yes we are ready to go.
All the last minute stowing done, gear lashed and checked, engine levels checked, medication taken and at 1130 we will pull our anchor for the last time here in the San Blas and head around the corner out the reef to the wide open Caribbean sea headed for Jamaica.